Modeling dissemination of health information and beliefs in urban social networks

Sara S. Metcalf, Harvey Palmer, Qiuyi Zhang, Mary Northridge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Social networks play a mediating role in the dissemination of information and beliefs in which trust increases the likelihood that a person relies on a particular source (Huckfeldt and Sprague 1987; Krueger et al. 2017). Trust is often grounded in group identity, where people are more likely to receive information and accept beliefs disseminated by sources aligned with their identity group(s) than from sources aligned with groups that are in conflict with their identity group(s). Group attachment acts as an information filter, in that the beliefs of group members are shaped by an accepted information environment that is biased toward the beliefs of sources aligned with the person’s identity group(s). Extant research has found the impact of trust increases with the number and variety of identity groups, that is, group heterogeneity, the average density and closeness of social links within identity groups, that is, intra-group cohesion, and the level of griev-ance between identity groups, that is, inter-group resentment (Fearon and Laitin 1996; Habyarimana et al. 2007). Insufficient attention, however, has been paid to how these causal factors interact within a single theoretical framework. This chapter contributes to social network theory by developing and experimenting with an agent-based model to simulate the dynamic interaction of group heterogeneity, intra-group cohesion and inter-group resentment in shaping the dissemination of beliefs within a society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of cities and networks
EditorsZachary Neal, Céline Rozenblat
Place of PublicationNorthampton, MA
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)978 1 78811 470 7
StatePublished - 2021


  • Social network
  • Health information
  • Health beliefs
  • Urban
  • Dissemination


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